Friday, May 29, 2015

Searching for a New Favorite Family Recipe

Mrs. Beeton's Every Day Cookery and Housekeeping BookMy daughter found a book she thought I might like:  the 1893 facsimile edition of Mrs. Beeton's Every Day Cookery and Housekeeping Book.  I do like it.  It will offer no end of entertainment as I peruse its pages, digging deeper and deeper to learn the ins and outs of cooking and home-keeping in the 1890s.  And searching for a recipe I think our family will love.

I understand that Mrs. Beeton created the first edition of the book in the 1860s because there was not a book available for new brides that gave recipes and instructions about the care and management of a house and servants.  It sold very well, but one cannot know whether it was well-used or not.

It is fascinating to see the differences in food choices then and now.  Some of the foods I recognize are Crayfish, Cranberry Sauce, Drop Cakes (aka cookies), Poached Eggs, Scrambled Eggs, Baked Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes, Beef (in several dozen recipes), Pound Cake, Rice Pudding, Baked Onions, Vanilla Ice Cream, among others.

Though the recipes themselves may be different, I recognize the names and ingredients of some.  Other recipes sound like things we make but are completely different.  Take, for example, "Chocolate Cakes."  For these one scrapes an ounce of chocolate to a powder, mixes it with a pound of white sugar, and adds water to make a paste.  Then boil the ingredients gently and drop with a silver spoon onto slightly greased white paper.  Hmmm.  Chocolate candy?

Other recipes I recognize but the ingredients or methods vary greatly from the way we make things these days.  And still others I recognize the ingredients but wouldn't think of eating them:  Hashed Calf's Head, Fricasseed [sic] Calf's Feet, Collared Pig's Face, Fried Cow Heel.  I suppose you get the idea that uncommon animal parts are not appealing to me....  (Perhaps I've never been truly hungry?)  The book contains recipes for a great variety of birds (partridge, grouse, chicken, duck, turkey, lark, pigeon, quail, snipe, teal, plover, and woodcock), and fish (brill, eel, skate, bream, bloaters, sturgeon, sprats, plaice, and mullet) to name a few.

And there these recipes:  Aitchbone of Beef, Scotch Collops, Mayonnaise of Salmon....  Sometimes even knowing the ingredients and what to do with them leaves me with uncertainty about what kind of dish it is.

Mrs. Beeton's Every Day Cookery and Housekeeping Book For each month, Mrs. Beeton offers menus with foods in season at that time.  She also offers monthly  "Plain Family Dinners" and "Vegetarian Dinners."Mrs. Beeton's Every Day Cookery and Housekeeping Book
I can see that Victorians ate very differently than we eat now, but I'm sure I can find at least one recipe that will become a family favorite.


Copyright © 2015 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.


  1. This reads like the basket of secret ingredients on "Chopped" (do you ever watch that show?). The chefs are always challenged to create amazing dishes out of things I'd be afraid to try. But I'm curious -- what does Mrs.Beeton say about managing servants? I could really use some tips - HA, just kidding.

    1. Ha ha. I'm in a similar plight, without servants at the moment, Wendy. Not that I've ever had any or ever will, of course. Mrs. Beeton's recommendation reminds me of teachers on the first day of school with their students: be very strict with high expectations to begin with because you can always become more lenient as time goes on. She goes into detail about what the mistress should do and what the maids should do, all considering whether there is one servant or whether there are several. I need to get my hands on one of the earliest editions and compare.

      I've never watched "Chopped." I'll have to try to watch it sometime.

  2. I love old cookbooks! They make such interesting reading:)

  3. I don't spend much time with cookbooks but I, too, find the old ones really interesting, too. I enjoy imagining what the kitchens were like, how things were stored, and what it was like using an old stove or fireplace.


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